An online journal I read recently asked it’s readers the question, “What would you say is the most important evidence of being mature in Christ?" The journal editors reported that the results weren't even close. More than 86 percent responded "Evidence of the fruit of the Spirit." This far surpassed the other responses: "Zeal in evangelism" and "Knowledge of Scripture,” as well as any additional answers.
It is abundantly clear that the Lord wants us to be mature in our walk with Him. Peter tells us that we are to “long for the pure milk of the Word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” (1 Peter 2:2) In his second letter he encourages us to, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18) The writer of the Hebrew letter speaks of those who are not maturing as they should. He says that some Christians who should have grown to a point where they are teaching others still need to be taught the most fundamental doctrines. He says that they have not exercised their senses to discern good from evil. He further tells us that there is a time we should leave the milk of the Word behind, and move on to the meat of the Word. (Hebrews 5:11-14) He closes this admonishment in Hebrews 6:1 by saying that we all ought to move on to “maturity,” “completion,” or “perfection.” Therefore the question is not should we mature, but are we maturing, and how do we know if we are maturing?
Surely, any of the answers given in this survey would suffice in helping us know if we are maturing. Our knowledge of Scripture now compared to the time we first came to know Jesus is one way to know if we are maturing in Christ. Do we take time to study the Word, on our own, and in group settings (Bible classes, Worship services, study groups)? Do we read God’s Word and discuss it with others as a means of growth? Do we saturate our lives in Scripture?
Another sign of spiritual maturation would be our zeal for evangelism. How interested are we in telling others about Christ? Only the immature would want to keep something so eternally important, so life-changing, so awesome, to themselves. As you read the New Testament text you cannot help but see how much our first brothers and sisters loved telling everyone about Christ. Acts 17:6 pictures this zeal best by saying, they “turned the world upside down,” for Jesus. What about us? When was the last time we told someone about Jesus, and about how He has changed our life? Do we have a zeal for evangelism?
The number one answer in the survey is without a doubt a key factor in expressing our spiritual maturity. Paul told the Galatian Christians that they were to be characterized by the fruits of the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit that Paul highlights are, “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Occasionally we will see some non-Christian, some unbeliever displays some of the fruits of the Spirit by their kindness toward others. Contrary to what some believe, just because someone may bear a fruit of the Spirit or two does not mean that the Spirit is living in them. Nevertheless, we can be sure that one who claims to be a child of the King, will have the fruits of the Spirit in his or her life. You cannot be a true, maturing Christian without the fruits of the Spirit. A Christian who holds on to anger, bitterness, resentment, hatred, a volatile spirit, etc., is not maturing any more than one who fails to study the Word or one who fails to tell others about Jesus. How are you doing regarding the fruits of the Spirit? Not how do you think others are doing, but how are you doing? Are you maturing in your walk with God by letting the fruits of the Spirit reign in your life?
There are certainly other signs of spiritual maturity, and while we are not to boast about our growth in the Lord, it should be evident to others. Our Lord taught us to strike the right balance when He tells us that we are to be filled with humility while at the same time we are to let our lights shine before men (Matthew 5:14-16). Our world is hurting and is in desperate need of seeing some Christians who are maturing in their walk with the Lord.
Dear God, help us to grow in our walk with You. Help us to grow in our desire to know Your Word, help us to grow in our enthusiasm for telling others about Jesus, and Father, help us to grow in our lives as we show forth the fruits of the Spirit who abides in us.